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SERAP sues Buhari, NASS, wants court to declare electricity tariff, fuel price hike illegal

 

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and 302 concerned Nigerians have filed a lawsuit against President Muhammadu Buhari and the leadership of the National Assembly, asking the court to “declare illegal, unconstitutional and unfair the recent hike in electricity tariff and fuel price because top level public officers cannot continue to receive the same salaries and allowances and spend public money to finance a life of luxury for themselves while asking poor Nigerians to make sacrifices.”

 

Joined in the suit as Defendants are the Vice-President Professor Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan, Speaker of House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, and the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).

 

President Buhari had while presenting the 2021 budget proposal of N13.08 trillion to the National Assembly reportedly stated that: “The new petro pricing has freed up resources that were used for subsidy payments, while the new cost-reflective pricing in the electricity industry is meant to address the liquidity challenges in the sector.”

 

But in the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/330/2020 filed last week at the Federal High Court, Abuja, SERAP is seeking: “an order directing and compelling the RMAFC to cut the salaries, allowances and other emoluments payable to President Buhari, Professor Osinbajo, Dr Lawan and Mr Gbajabiamila, in line with the current economic realities, and principles of justice, fairness, equality and non-discrimination.”

 

SERAP is arguing that: “The Constitution of Nigeria 1999 [as amended] makes it clear that the authorities should harness Nigeria’s resources to promote and ensure the maximum welfare, prosperity, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality. The country’s resources ought to be harnessed and distributed to serve the common good, and not to finance a life of luxury for politicians.”

 

According to SERAP: “Increasing electricity tariff and fuel price in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic is antithetical to the public interest, the common good, and a fundamental breach of constitutional oath of office.”

 

SERAP is also seeking: “an order of injunction restraining the RMAFC from paying the same amount of salaries and allowances to President Buhari, Professor Osinbajo, Dr Lawan and Mr Gbajabiamila until the RMAFC comprehensively reviews downward the salaries and allowances and other emoluments of these top public officers and other high-ranking public officers, in line with Nigeria’s current economic realities, and consistent with the principles of the rule of law.”

 

Dr Lawan is sued for himself and on behalf of all 109 members of the Senate, while Mr Gbajabiamila is sued for himself and on behalf of all 360 members of the House of Representatives.

 

According to SERAP: “A public officer shall not put himself/herself in a position where his/her personal interest conflicts with his/her duties and responsibilities. Personal interest in this case is when top public officers like the Defendants continue to receive the same salaries and allowances while asking poor Nigerians to sacrifice and bear the burden of electricity tariff and fuel price hike.”

 

SERAP is also asking the court to determine “whether RMAFC can lawfully continue to maintain the same level of salaries and allowances for President Buhari, Professor Osinbajo, Dr Lawan and Mr Gbajabiamila, in light of Nigeria’s current economic realities, and constitutional provisions, and despite their apparent roles in the increase of electricity tariff and fuel price.”

 

SERAP said: “Public money is spent as security votes without transparency, and to pay for lavish lifestyles for top public officers including lawmakers, who continue to buy expensive new cars at the expense of taxpayers, the poor and socially and economically vulnerable Nigerians. The National Assembly is also set to spend N27 billion to renovate the National Assembly Complex, as proposed in the budget.”

 

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, read in part: “Public duty means showing leadership by example and commitment to the ideals of public service, including by reducing salaries and allowances of high-ranking public officers like the Defendants.”

 

“The Nigerian Constitution is founded on the rule of law the primary meaning of which is that everything must be done according to law. It also means that government should be conducted within the framework of recognized rules and principles, which restrict discretionary power.”

 

“The court, being the last hope of the common man, must come to the aid of the poor and socially and economically vulnerable Nigerians by granting the reliefs sought by SERAP and 302 concerned Nigerians. Unless the reliefs sought are granted, the Defendants will continue to breach the constitution at the expense of Nigerians living in poverty.”

 

“The poor and socially and economically vulnerable Nigerians would be negatively affected by the hike in electricity tariff and fuel price. The increase is contrary to the oath of office by the President to faithfully ensure the well-being and prosperity of the people. Increasing electricity tariff and fuel price is neither in the public interest nor the well-being of Nigerians.”

 

“On or about the 1st September, 2020, the Federal Government announced a total removal of subsidy from the price of the Premium Motor Spirit, otherwise known as petrol and thereby pushed the price per litre of petrol to N151. The Government had on 19th August, 2020 announced an increment of more than 100 percent in the electricity tariff per kilowatt to be paid by Nigerians who continue to face unjust electricity charges.”

 

SERAP is also seeking the following reliefs:

 

  1. A DECLARATION that the exercise of the President Buhari’s power to increase the price of petrol under section 6 of the Petroleum Act 1969 and increase of electricity tariff is arbitrary, unjust, unfair, and in breach of the Oath of Office of President contained in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 [as amended].
  2. A DECLARATION that it is unlawful and unconstitutional for President Buhari, Professor Osinbajo, Dr Lawan and Mr Gbajabiamila to continue to receive the same salaries and allowances and the same level of budgetary allocations, despite Nigeria’s current economic realities and light of the Public Procurement Act 2007, constitutional code of conduct for public officers, and their respective oaths of office contained in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.
  3. A DECLARATION that the failure of RMAFC to reduce the salaries, allowances and other emoluments for President Buhari, Professor Osinbajo, Dr Lawan and Mr Gbajabiamila and other principal public officers in spite of their respective roles in the increase of electricity tariff and fuel price is in breach of the principle of equality before the law and equal application of the law, and Section 153 [1] [n] and Paragraph [N] 32[b] [c] [d] in Part 1 Third Schedule of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 [as amended].
  4. AN ORDER restraining all the Defendants individually and/or collectively, directly or through their representatives and agents from implementing any purported increase in electricity tariff and fuel price until an impact assessment of the effects on the poor and socially and economically vulnerable Nigerians is carried out.
  5. AND for such further order(s) this Honourable Court may deem fit to make in the circumstances.

 

 

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

 

 

 

Kolawole Oluwadare

SERAP Deputy Director

18/10/2020

Lagos, Nigeria

Emails: info@serap-nigeria.orgnews@serap-nigeria.org

Twitter: @SERAPNigeria

Website: www.serap-nigeria.org

For more information or to request an interview, please contact us on: +2348160537202

 

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COVID-19: ‘Reverse cut in health budget or face legal action’, SERAP tells Buhari, NASS

COVID-19: ‘Reverse cut in health budget or face legal action’, SERAP tells Buhari, NASS

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has given “the government of President Muhammadu Buhari and leadership of the National Assembly 14 days to reverse the proposed illegal cut of N26.51 billion in basic healthcare budget and to cut the National Assembly and Presidency budgets instead, or face legal action.”

SERAP is also calling on them to meet to “reverse the proposed illegal cut of N50.76 billion in the education budget. There is currently no proposal to cut the National Assembly and Presidency budgets.”

In the letters dated 18 April, 2020 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization expressed: “concern about the scale of the cuts in basic healthcare and education budgets and their disproportionate impact on the poorest. These cuts are not inevitable. The authorities have a lot of choices as to what to cut but chose to balance the budget on the backs of the most disadvantaged.”

According to SERAP, “The cuts would leave the poorest and most vulnerable people without access to these essential public goods and services, and without anywhere to turn, and despite the COVID-19 crisis. This would put both the government and the National Assembly in breach of their constitutional and international human rights and anti-corruption obligations.”

The letters addressed to President Buhari, Dr Ahmad Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, read in part: “Continuing to neglect these basic public goods and services to sustain the apparently lavish lifestyles of members of the National Assembly and other powerful politicians wound exacerbate poverty, inequality, marginalization and impunity in the country.”

“The COVID-19 crisis is a good opportunity to cut the costs of governance, particularly the unsustainable spending on the National Assembly expenses, and the Presidency budget, and to focus on increasing budget allocations to healthcare and education.”

“The authorities’ approach to National Assembly and Presidency budgets ought to be ‘do more with less.’ While we understand that the country is facing difficult choices in budget allocations, the authorities should have prioritised cuts in National Assembly and Presidency budgets to increase the allocations to healthcare and education.”

“If the cuts are sustained, Nigerians will become justified in thinking that the government and the leadership of the National Assembly do not really care about improving access of the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people to basic public services like healthcare and education.”

“Cutting basic healthcare budget, especially at a time of COVID-19 crisis in the country, will undermine the ability of your government to effectively and satisfactorily respond to the crisis and to protect Nigerians and ensure their well-being. Cutting education budget would mean that 16 million out-of-school Nigerian children would remain on the street for many years to come.”

“Basic healthcare and education should not bear the brunt of your government’s efforts to balance the 2020 budget. Cutting basic healthcare budget would exacerbate the effects of COVID-19, have long-term consequences for the well-being of Nigerians, and violate the government’s constitutional and international human rights obligations to the people.”

“Any perceived budget crisis does not excuse this flagrant violation of constitutional law and international standards. Any budget cuts to healthcare and the Universal Basic Education Commission will only worsen Nigeria’s ailing health and education sectors.”

“These essential public goods and services must be protected even during these lean budget times. Doing the opposite would cause significant health challenges to the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people.”

“Disproportionate cuts in healthcare and education budgets will also continue to deny Nigerians particularly the poorest and the most vulnerable people access to effective and functioning public healthcare and education services.”

“SERAP proposes cutting among others, the following aspects of the National Assembly and Presidency budgets: the N15 million monthly allowances/running costs per senator, about N10 million monthly allowances/running costs per member of the House of Representatives, as well as budgets for the Presidency on travel, feeding, and vehicles.”

“Other aspects of the National Assembly budget revealed by the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), and which SERAP proposes should be cut include the following: basic salary (N2,484,245.50); hardship allowance (N1,242, 122.70); constituency allowance (N4,968, 509.00); furniture allowance (N7, 452, 736.50); and wardrobe allowance (N621,061.37).”

“Others include: recess allowance (N248,424.55); accommodation (N4,968,509.00); utilities allowance (N828,081.83); entertainment (N828,081.83); vehicle maintenance allowance (N1,863,184.12); leave allowance (N248,424.55); severance gratuity (N7, 425,736.50); and motor vehicle allowance (N9, 936,982.00).”

“Continuing to spend scarce public funds on these expenses would deny the most disadvantaged access to public goods and services, and burden the next generation.”

“SERAP further urges you to instruct Mrs Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning to work with the leadership of the National Assembly to work out the details of cuts to National Assembly and Presidency budgets, and the reversal of the cuts to basic healthcare and education.”

“According to our information, your government has proposed to drastically cut basic healthcare budget by N26.51 billion, that is, from the N44.49 billion initially budgeted down to just N17.98 billion. Your government has also proposed to cut education budget by N50.76 billion, that is, from the N111.78 billion initially budgeted for UBEC down to just to N61.02 billion.”

“SERAP notes that access to basic healthcare is closely related to and dependent upon the realization of other human rights, including the right to education, human dignity, life, non-discrimination, equality, and access to information. These and other rights and freedoms address integral components of the right to health.”

Kolawole Oluwadare

SERAP Deputy Director

19/04/2020

Lagos, Nigeria

Emails: info@serap-nigeria.org; news@serap-nigeria.org

Twitter: @SERAPNigeria

Website: www.serap-nigeria.org

For more information or to request an interview, please contact Kolawole Oluwadare on: +2348160537202